herald

Thursday 15 November 2018

Carbery eases in as Cronin and cool Cooney stay composed

NEW COLOURS: Joey Carbery in action for Munster Pic: Sportsfile
NEW COLOURS: Joey Carbery in action for Munster Pic: Sportsfile

The Munster roar that greeted the appearance of Joey Carbery was about as embracing as a great big hug.

The Athy man didn't have to strain hi mself on entering into a contest that had long been decided, Munster eventually wiping out the Cheetahs 38-0 in round one of the PRO14 League at Thomond Park.

There was a nice set-up for Dave O'Callaghan's try in what was otherwise an understated quarter of rugby from the multi-skilled Carbery.

The fact he did not over-extend himself or reach into his repertoire of party pieces spoke volumes for his understanding of where he is and of the long season ahead.

"He slotted straight into ten with some good decision-making," noted coach Johann van Graan.

However, it was the ease of transfer of scrum-half Neil Cronin from the AIL to the PRO14 that really caught the eye.

"To play like that for 65 minutes after being an amateur a few months ago and walking into a professional league, that was really good," said the coach.

The worrying uncertainty over Conor Murray's neck problem was further exacerbated by the signing of All Black Alby Mathewson on a short-term deal.

The whispers on the ground of Cronin's transformation from his previous Munster incarnation four seasons back were confirmed.

They are better stocked than expected to deal with the temporary loss of their best player.

The bigger picture shows Munster at the head of Conference A by virtue of their six tries and wide points-difference, with Zebre in second, from defeating Southern Kings 32-16, and Glasgow, the third club to earn full points, from their 27-26 edging out of Connacht in Galway.

It could have been so different for Andy Friend's men as Craig Ronaldson's penalty bounced away from the left upright in the last action of the game.

There was more than a hint of disappointment from Friend at the way Connacht's defenders did not bounce back up into the defensive line.

"What we have to look at are the areas we did well in and make sure we keep that, cement that in our game," said the coach.

"Then, there are simple areas we can fix like our ability to get off the ground quicker in defence and get bodies in front of the opposition.

"It was a quality game which was anybody's until that last kick," said the Australian.

In Conference B, Ulster moved from a losing bonus-point to four for their last minute 15-13 victory over the Scarlets at The Kingspan.

There was a lot to like about the way the All Whites went about their business, gorging on the offload without harvesting the rewards their endeavours deserved.

The impact of Springbok Marcel Coetzee in the back row was refreshing, allowing Nick Timoney to scavenge impressively at the ruck.

For all of that, they had to turn to last year's Player of the Season John Cooney to save the evening with a game-winning penalty.

Coach Dan McFarland was not about to get carried away.

"I wanted a competitive edge. That's what I wanted to see," he reflected.

"I wanted it demonstrated by the individual players and the team as a whole, and I think I got that for a lot of the game.

"Some of the individuals out there really showed that fight for every inch mentality and no more so than by the fact we had to squeeze it over in the last few minutes."

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